University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – Heaven Relived

February 8

It’s over; the most thrilling and healthy vacation I’ve had since childhood, if not ever. Now, back in wet and windy Paris, I now have long hours at frustrating work and no time or energy to record the full Tyrolean experience. Here are simply a few quick images:

The brisk walk with Al and Tess to the ski school platz early each morning.

The loud, clean crunch of the snowy path, the intensity of sound inversely proportional to the ambient temperature.

The special fragrance of fresh horse dung steaming in the snowy path.

The sparkle off the snow as the sun breaks over the eastern range.

The curling plumes of blown snow erupting over the corniches, resembling the violent jets of burning hydrogen thrown off in flares at the sun’s surface.

Savory smoke from Tyrolean kitchens and bakeries.

Tart English marmalade on just-baked crusty rolls, washed down with heavy, sweet chocolade mit schlag.

Early morning breathlessness on the slopes; quickly tiring muscles, hesitant, insecure motions until warmed up; then confident, smooth, curving turns as one drops happily over the brow of the hill.

The blazing snow whiteness softened to green-brown by sunglasses.

The prickling burn of cheeks exposed to high-level UV and chill wind.

The rhythmic tug of the ski lift T-bar between the thighs.

The wonder and awe as the high central alpine range, der Hohen Tauern, emerges above the slope as the skilift moves ever up and up.

Breathtaking thrills of acceleration; satisfying proprioceptions of the turn.

Horrifying loss of equilibrium; blinding jumble of legs, poles, and skis, and sharp wrenching pain, falling at high speed.

The childish shout and spontaneous laughter and release after a fall; the eagerness to be up and away again.

The beauty of utter fatigue and the sweet response to a short rest, warm stove, and heavy Austrian beer coursing through the muscles.

The yeasty fragrance of the chalet’s bierstübe.

The richness of eight hours uninterrupted sleep.

Great body tone and firmness.

Joyous wakening to the golden brightness of a dawn, presaging a brilliant and happy day in a simple and heavenly world — the Tyrol in winter.


By spring of that year, 1950, Al Sullivan was recalled to Army service and assigned to a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital ( M.A.S. H.) in Korea. Tess was pregnant. When they headed back to the Twin Cities from Paris, I inherited their fifth-floor, walk-up apartment at 10 Rue Condorcet, near Place Clichy, and bought their Renault quatre-cheveaux, the French Volkswagen of the 50s. I went on to a satisfying closure of my residency at the American Hospital of Paris. In the end, I took the little car to Le Havre to meet Nelly Trocmé who returned by ship from the States in late August.  I was soon engaged to that “jeune femme de bonne famille.”

A long train of events led us to join Al and Tess in Minnesota several years later. Now it seems that we have always been recipients of their good will and will always be, happily, in their debt.

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Click to view the Al Sullivan Letters.